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Cyclists death triggers little jail time

The Press-Enterprise: SAN BERNARDINO: Cyclist’s death triggers little jail time

BY RICHARD BROOKS STAFF WRITER
Published: 03 October 2012

A 20-year-old San Bernardino man drew three years' probation -- but no additional jail time -- for his role in the vehicular manslaughter death of a professional bicyclist in Highland.

“I would like to express how sorry I am for the loss of your son and friend,” Brett Michael Morin told the audience during his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Oct. 3, in San Bernardino Superior Court. “No family should have to go through this. I wish with all my heart that I could bring him back.

“This event has changed my life and has reminded me of how very important it is to follow all the laws of the road.”

Morin and Patrick Michael Roraff of Highland were 18-year-old Redlands East Valley High School students when their driving killed 27-year-old Jorge Ivan Alvarado of Ontario on April 8, 2010, along Greenspot Road.

The crash originally was described as the result of street racing. But in court Wednesday, the incident was characterized as reckless driving that began with Roraff driving up behind Morin and moving into the on-coming lane to pass him, prompting Morin to block the effort.

Morin also blocked what he may have perceived as a second passing attempt by Roraff, who lost control, causing his car to spin and slam into the bicyclist, according to Deputy District Attorney William Lee.

Roraff and Morin got identical sentences: 90 days in jail and three year’s probation. Roraff’s hearing was held Aug. 6. With credit for time served, Morin was due to be released within hours of his sentencing.

“We wanted prison,” Lee said after the hearing.

However, prosecutors had no say in the deal, because Morin pleaded guilty -- as charged -- directly to the judge in return for a guarantee that he’d serve no more than a year in county jail.

In court, Lee urged Judge William Jefferson Powell to impose the full one-year term.

Roraff is the driver who caused the fatal injury, but it was Morin’s blocking maneuver that caused Roraff to lose control, Lee argued.

“It’s not something you do on Greenspot Road,” said Lee, referring to a road long notorious for street racing. “People don’t care (about the consequences) until it’s too late.”

Defense attorney Stephen Levine argued that Morin was driving no more than slightly above the speed limit and clearly wasn’t street racing. In his written statement to the court, the victim’s father got it right when he said that the death amounted to “imprudent actions of the youngsters,” Levine emphasized.

The judge agreed.

A harsher sentence, the judge decided, would compound the tragedy of Alvarado’s death.

Experts have determined that Morin probably was traveling between 64 and 66 mph. And Morin’s driving didn’t rise to a level that calls for prison or a long jail term, the judge said

Powell explained that he was seeking to protect the public and hand down punishment for a tragic death without destroying the life of a young man who has no prior criminal record and, whom the judge said, has led an upright and productive life.

“I see no reason to destroy another life when the life could be saved,” Powell concluded shortly before imposing the 90-day jail term.

Minutes after the hearing, the victim’s brother decried the decision as too lenient.

Said 31-year-old Luis Alvarado of Ontario, “I believe the judge made a mistake.”